Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Diminishing Returns Part II

It seems that as you progress further in this field you end up spending less time actually discussing physics and more time sitting in meetings and discussing discussions.  It's becoming more and more rate to find times to actually discuss the difficulties we're facing and take part in a bit of problem solving.  After all that's what interest us as scientists, a mystery to be understood.

Recently I was appointed as a the electron contact for the CMS Exotica group.  This means that I form a point of contact between the two groups to make it easier to keep track of the latest studies and changes to analyses.  Its one of those tasks that is essential and isn't particularly difficult.  I consider it a responsibility as a postdoc to take on a role like this and I'm doing my best to make it easy and enjoyable, but at times it simply means reading several pages or papers and summarising them on another webpage.  That's one of those things that you have to be sufficiently knowledgeable to perform properly, but it is essentially just administration.  Writing about what someone else has written about an analysis is not how I want to spend the rest of my career.  It's not all bad of course, it's one of the quickest ways to learn about the electron reconstruction, which is essential to my analysis, and it gives me visibility which opens up new career options in the future.  But it is boring at times.

The situation gets more frustrating the higher you go.  I've spoken to group conveners and sub-conveners, whose roles are essentially to monitor the progress of analyses, and they have to find the compromise between meeting tight deadlines and giving the analysts the time they need to complete the studies.  When the analyst is a first year PhD student it can mean slow progress.  Having to sit back and watch someone perform a study much more slowly than you could manage can be a painful experience and teaches a great deal of patience.  Being a sub convener or convener would be the next logical step for me after working on analysis for a long time, but the idea does not appeal to me at all.

I'm naturally a problem solver and that's what I want to do for the rest of my life.  I'd rather make my own project than administer someone else's.  At the moment I can't see any future path in particle physics with lead to a situation where I'll get to spend more time problem solving.  Then again at least I'm not going to be person who makes a summary of my summary of other people's work.

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